This is the second post in a new series in which we explore a variety of essential skills for using digital, social, and visual media. We’ll present the information in ways that you can share directly with your students, and we hope this information will enhance your lectures and class discussions.
One of the most appealing aspects of social networking for both internal and external communication is the range of options you have for connecting with your communities and for creating and sharing content.
Developing and Sharing Original Content
For business social networking, much of the value you can provide will come from original insights and information you can offer. A good approach is to put yourself in the minds of your social connections and ask what information they could use to improve some aspect of their personal or professional lives. In many instances, the need or desire to share information will be triggered by some change or event, such as when you need to let your employees know about a new company policy. In others, your motivation will be a matter of enlightened self-interest, when you want to create some visibility for yourself or your company while helping others.
For example, you could share tips on using a product more effectively or ideas for saving money. If the information is useful to your readers, sharing it will solidify your reputation as a valuable social media partner.
Responding to Existing Content and Questions
Responding to questions can be a great way to encourage conversations, build your personal brand, demonstrate your company’s commitment to customer service, and clear up confusion or misinformation about your company and its products.
Keep in mind that when you respond to an individual query, whether on your own pages or on a forum or other community Q&A site, you are also “responding in advance” to every person who comes to the site with the same question in the future. In other words, you are writing a type of reference material in addition to corresponding with the original questioner, so keep the long time frame and wider audience in mind.
Curating and Sharing Existing Content
At its simplest, content curation can involve sharing links to useful articles or videos via your social media accounts. Companies can also set up dedicated websites that publish links to original content in a variety of topic categories.
As an alternative, several web services offer ready-made content curation solutions. Pinterest and Scoop.it, for example, make it easy to assemble attractive online portfolios or magazines on specific topics. Content curation is also a good solution for internal communication, if the employees in a firm need to stay up to date on developments in their professions or in the industries in which the company does business.
Curating content for a target audience can be a great way to add value and stand out as an expert in your field, but content curators need to be aware of two key ethical concerns:
- Never copy anyone else’s posts to your site, even if you properly attribute the source. Instead, provide a link from your site back to the original so that you drive web traffic to the originator’s site. It is acceptable to copy a brief introductory segment, such as the first paragraph, to your site in order to give the link some context.
- You are promoting yourself as an expert when you curate content, and people will expect you to do a competent job of finding and filtering materials. As with any communication task, make sure you understand the needs of your target audience so that you can provide the best material to meet their needs.
Facilitating User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is any social media content about a company or its products that is created independently by customers or other outside stakeholders. As with other social media, one of the keys to effective UGC is making it easy for people to contribute content that others will find valuable. First, encourage content that people will want to see and share with colleagues, such as tips from experienced customers on various ways to use a product.
Second, make material easy to find, consume, and share. For example, a branded channel on YouTube lets a company organize all its videos in one place, making it easy for visitors to browse the selection or subscribe to get automatic updates of future videos. YouTube lets fans share videos through email or their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.
Adapted from Courtland L. Bovée and John V. Thill, Business Communication Today, 15th Edition, 2021, pp. 228–230. Social media communication is also addressed in our titles Excellence in Business Communication, Chapter 8, and Business Communication Essentials, Chapter 6.